LOCK AND LOAD! LUTHERAN CLARITY about the attacks on Pope Benedict!

There is a spectacular examination of the recent attacks on Pope Benedict – the Pope of Christian Unity – and on the Church by a LUTHERAN theologian on a Lutheran site, Logia, a Lutheran theological journal.

It is long but worth it.  Here is a bit of the beginning with my E & C.

The dictatorship of relativism strikes back—and goes nuclear
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:43

Some ecumenical thoughts at Holy Week 2010 from John Stephenson

The secular press has had it in for Joseph Ratzinger for going on three decades. Before his election as Pope in the spring of 2005, he was routinely derided in his homeland as the Panzerkardinal (“tank cardinal”) and caricatured in North America as the “Enforcer” or even the “Rottweiler.” The roots of this negative reputation stretch back at least as far as the book-length interview he granted to the Italian journalist Vittorio Messori that catapulted him to global fame when published as The Ratzinger Report in 1985. [He dared to question to liberal, modernist grip on the narrative of Vatican II and how things were going as a result of the misapplication of the Council.] Prior to that juncture, as a heavyweight German academic who had leapfrogged over a major episcopal see (Munich-Freising) to become a leading official in the Roman curia (as cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) under the still new John Paul II, Ratzinger’s was hardly a household name.

But shrewd observers must wonder about [get this…] the startling disproportion between the enormous hue and cry artificially whipped up by the media and the softly spoken real life figure who seems always to have avoided hyperbole like the plague. [One of the best sentences on this controversy yet.]  Even though the curial department over which he presided for almost a quarter century is the direct heir to the 16th-century Inquisition, the disciplinary measures dealt out by Ratzinger against barely a score of wildly Modernist (actually mostly apostate) theologians over more than two decades add up to a string of fairly mild censures, gentle slaps on the wrist in most cases. Hans Küng [ultra-discontinity agent and star theological punchline] lost the right to teach theology as an accredited representative of the magisterium (as his missio canonica was stripped from him), but (despite his clear disavowal of the divinity of Christ!) retained his status as an incardinated (=rostered) Roman Catholic priest, and he has, well, greatly profited in fame and fortune from his much trumpeted role as Rome’s chief dissident. Had he rather than Ratzinger landed in the chair of cardinal prefect back in the early 1980s, the media would have shown no sympathy for the advocates of traditional Christianity that a totalitarian liberal such as Küng [excellent… "totalitarian liberal".  Right!  Liberals are those with whom you are "free" to agree!] would have hounded to the remotest margins of Church life; ironically, there is no more illiberal force on earth than a liberal with his hands on the levers of power[POW!  BIF!]

 Moreover, when someone takes the trouble to examine Ratzinger’s huge opus over close to six decades as a professional theologian, they make the discovery that he occupies a centrist position in the constellation of modern Roman Catholic theology; he is at most mildly “conservative”, the “ultra-conservative” label routinely affixed to him by most sections of the press being sheerly laughable[Folks… I didn’t write this… I promise you, I didn’t.  I wish I had, however.]

As I set forth the Roman Catholic reality in our St. Catharines Religious Bodies (Comparative Symbolics) course, I point out the current uneasy coexistence of three groupings in that vast church body.

[I will cut this off soon… but… here is a little more.]

Modernism on the rampage (or the elephant actually destroying the living room)

In the one corner are the media-supported Modernists, those who do not acknowledge the definitive quality of God’s unsurpassable self-revelation in Christ, and who thus regard faith and practice not as givens to be handed down intact but as man-made constructs to be refashioned at whim according to the capricious desire of succeeding generations. Roundly condemned and solemnly proscribed by Pius X (1903-1914) and still held back to a great extent by Pius XII (1939-1958), the Modernists crawled out of the woodwork during the reign of John XXIII (1958-1963), and Modernism swiftly rose to a dominant position in Roman Catholic theology in, with, under, and around the (sixteen) officially promulgated documents of Vatican II (1962-1965).  [OORAH!]

As a young theologian, Ratzinger attended Vatican II as a peritus (=expert) of somewhat “progressive” tendencies. By Council’s close he was uneasy over the tone and content of its last document, Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church and the Modern World. Shocked to the core by the virulently anti-Christian positions embraced even by theology students (led by such figures as the radical Tübingen exegete Ernst Käsemann) in the student uprisings of 1968 (Achtundsechziger [“68ers”] is an actual word in modern German), Ratzinger firmed up his centrist credentials and switched his support from the left-leaning magazine Concilium (the house organ of Küng & Co.) to the middle of the road Communio (the substitute publication of von Balthasar and friends).

Clearly, the Modernists who surged forth to theological dominance in the wake of Vatican II have never forgiven Ratzinger for his “betrayal” of their cause; in their books (literally, in the case of Küng’s interminable memoirs) he is and remains a cross between Brutus and Judas Iscariot. At least some of his media woes are attributable to the Modernists’ insatiable thirst for revenge for, say, his pointed critique of Gaudium et spes written ten years after the close of the Council. But these pages of sober commentary are surely sweet music to orthodox Lutheran ears. [Are you itching to read more?] Yes, Vatican II was infected by the dementedly schwärmerisch optimism of the Kennedy era (Principles of Catholic Theology, 372; 383). Yes, Gaudium et spes considers the “world” a positive entity, with which it seeks dialogue and cooperation with a view to building jointly with it a better global state of affairs (Principles, 379f.). Had he lived much longer, Hermann Sasse, who was careful to register both the strengths and the weaknesses of Vatican II, would surely have added his Yea and Amen to Ratzinger’s analysis of Gaudium et spes.

As they still pretend that everything in the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic garden is fine and dandy, the Modernists undoubtedly continue greatly to resent Ratzinger’s telling Vittorio Messori in the early 1980s how “we must speak …of a crisis of faith and of the Church” (Ratzinger Report, 44; “the gravity of the crisis,” 62;  “in this confused period, when truly every type of heretical aberration seems to be pressing upon the doors of the authentic faith,” 105). Later in the same decade I headed the first chapter of CLD’s Eschatology volume “General Apostasy: the Sign of our Time.” Guess what? Ratzinger, the GAFCON Anglicans, and I are spot on. Might there be something slightly fishy in the direction ELCA, ELCiC, TEC (the US Episcopalians), and the Anglican Church of Canada have been heading lately? The Modernists and their media allies would much prefer that no one notice these developments.

[Fantastic…. here are his other headings.]

  • The traditionalist rump
  • In the centre receiving shots from both (all) sides
  • By the way, the world still hates, loathes, & detests Christ and His Church!
  • Christendom as a whole is under attack
  • Not in the same ballpark as Leo X & Co.

HUGE WDTPRS KUDOS to John Stephenson and Logia!

Some highlights….

When did you last read a fair account of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) in the “quality” press? When did you ever read there an objective appraisal of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that Lefebvre founded to withstand the Modernist juggernaut that came out of the Council?


To understand his papal programme (inasmuch as we may talk of such a thing), we must realise that he is endeavouring to steer his massive ecclesial ship back into a centrist channel after a good forty years of disastrous leftward lurch—just consider the pitiful liturgical shambles that emerged from Paul VI’s Novus Ordo of 1968, causing Hermann Sasse to remark in his last years how Rome had suddenly “canonised St. Zwingli.”

Who is this guy?  Can we make him a bishop?


His papacy was barely a few hours old when the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) evening news ran a segment on an aged Italian woman (a “good Catholic”, of course) who stood crestfallen amid a jubilant crowd as Benedict XVI appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s, walking dejectedly away as she realized that women’s ordination, contraception, sexual licence, abortion on demand, and all that good stuff would still be denied the papal seal of approval.


The negative reaction aroused already by the Ratzinger Report laid bare the sheer fury shared by Roman Catholic Modernists and the unbelieving world in general against anyone who dares to intimate that the historic Christian religion is, to put it bluntly, true. Neither apostates within Holy Christendom nor naked unbelievers outside her borders will ever forgive Ratzinger for the grave breach of secularist, pluralist etiquette involved in the first volume of his Jesus of Nazareth.



Can we picture Peter and Paul, around the year 68, stamping their feet and stressing the paramount need for Nero to respect the human rights of the nascent Christian community in Rome? Can we get our hands on evidence that the bishops and other ecclesial spokesmen of the day adopted the tone of these Anglican Evangelical prelates toward Decius and Diocletian? More to the point, can we imagine Diocletian, Decius, and Nero meekly agreeing to “remedy the serious developments” that had occurred on their respective imperial watches? Rather than issuing impotent appeals to the successive beasts that arise from the earth, bishops are to prepare and equip the Christian faithful to undergo the fires of tribulation that the Lord permits to come their way.




Oh… just go read it!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    This is like a fine Riesling Auslese, chilly, crisp, sweet but backed up with some real powerful acidity (guess what I gave up for Lent?).

    Thanks for the post, Fr. Z!

  2. muckemdanno says:

    Stephenson says “…SSPX has lately toned down its anti-papal polemics and willingly begun to participate in a theological dialogue with the CDF.”

    While the first part of this statement is true, implicit in the second part is the idea that SSPX was not willing to participate in theological discussions in the past. This is certainly untrue…SSPX have wanted from the start to engage in theological discussions with Rome. SSPX have toned down their polemics because Rome is now willing to have these discussions, among other obvious reasons such as Summorum Pontificum.

    Please note, I am not defending SSPX overuse of polemics in the past…only defending that they have been asking for this dialogue for 40 years now.

  3. Thanks for the post! This is wonderful stuff! I’ll have to go back and read the entire article. Thanks for sharing this, Father Z!

  4. deborah-anne says:

    This is simply fascinating. I’m off to finish the read. Thank you Father Z for this post.

  5. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    Will we find any of these facts in the Old Gray Witch, Fr. Grochell’s name for the NY Times? I think not.

    Thank God for the day Joseph Ratzinger decided to answer the call of the Holy Sprit. From that time forward he has been the right man in the right place at the right time for the right job, having been cast for this by God Himself.

    Our Holy Father leads us slowly, quietly and steadily toward our final goal no mater how hard Fr. Feelgood and Sister Newage and associates try to kick against the gourd.

    Dr Stephenson this is a brilliant piece of work, thank you.

    Dissidents can you read?

    Tom Lanter

  6. KAS says:

    I enjoyed the article! Thank you, and I shared it.

  7. Karen Russell says:

    I read this piece earlier today courtesy of Mark Shea’s link, and almost e-mailed it to Fr. Z. myself. I was so glad to see he’s picked it up.

    An outstanding dissection of what is really going on.

  8. The Egyptian says:

    Why does it take a LUTHERAN theologian to explain the problem, Pardon me but where the 7734 are you Catholic theologians, for the love of Pete defend the man will you or are you glad to see him suffer, perhaps your true colors are being displayed by your silence, Angels defend him from the wolves and all of us pray for him. God Bless Papa

  9. Mike says:

    “Ratzinger is far removed from the wavelength of the SSPX and of the former members of that body who have returned to full communion with Rome under the auspices of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). Of course, these groups are well aware that it is humanly impossible for them to face a more favourable occupant of the papal chair in the foreseeable future, with the result that the SSPX has lately toned down its anti-papal polemics and willingly begun to participate in a theological dialogue with the CDF.”

    The first part of this seems questionable. B16’s SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY?

  10. medievalist says:

    Wow! Oh, wow! Just finished the entire article. What a great Easter present.

    Certainly, when other Christians make such a defence of the Holy Father, the “professional” ecumenists must go into a tizzy, being forced to choose between insulting their ecumenical partners or defending the Holy Father. Of course, somehow I suspect that Mr Stephenson hasn’t been invited to the ecumenical table.

  11. GordonB says:

    I am uneasy with the term “Centrist” and for that matter “Conservative” to describe Pope Benedict, is he not just simply a “Faithful” Pope?

  12. Oleksander says:

    someone make this Lutheran a Catholic bishop

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    But make him give up his ideas about justification first, Oleksander. Don’t know about you but my sins are sins to be forgiven by God in truth, not just dung under snow.

    Nevertheless, I can appreciate a good turn by a Lutheran with a good set of brains. Excellent article.

  14. Peggy R says:

    Wow! I am bowled over. A real and knowledgeable theologian who knows with reasonably accuracy about the Roman Catholic Church–and probably his own faith, of course. What fairmindedness and solid commitment to the Truth of Christianity!

    Is this guy ready to swim the Tiber? Indeed, let’s elevate him to the hierarcy STAT.

    God bless John Stephenson.

  15. Warren says:

    Amen, GordonB.

    Faithful is sufficient. Thanks be to God for giving us such a faithful pope!

  16. New Sister says:

    I agree, GordonB & Warren. From a colleague of mine (whom I often quote when called “conservative” by a “liberal”),

    “there are no ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ forms of Catholicism. We have two choices: either one is faithful to the Magesterium or one is not.”

  17. Tom in NY says:

    The Stephenson article is indeed an interesting interpretation of history. It links the struggle at the turn of the last century to the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It appears that struggle continues.

    Today’s believers can remember that the Kulturkampf in Prussia in the late 19th century was worse. They can remember Jn. 8:32, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    Salutationes omnibus.

  18. EXCHIEF says:

    ANd the reason one of the better defenses of the Pope comes from a Lutheran is…..?

  19. pfreddys says:

    Great article although I am suddenly saddened by the realization that the secular media has accomplished one of their goals by their timing of this controversy: WE HAVE BEEN DISTRACTED FROM THE SERENE AND HEROIC BEAUTY OF HOLY WEEK.
    We can see this evidenced on this blog itself. Father Z has had to take time and effort to address this matter time which could have been spent examining any number of the beautiful mysteries of Holy Week.
    They {the secularists}take these things away from us, my first tendency is for them to be paid back; but we’ll say with Our Lord: Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

  20. Mariana says:

    Makes me proud to be a former Lutheran : ) !

    “Totalitarian liberal,” “dementedly schwärmerisch!”

    “Who is this guy? Can we make him a bishop?”
    Maybe WE can, if he converts, but he’ll never be a Lutheran bishop – unfortunately.

    Now back to Holy Week.

  21. muckemdanno says:

    Also a good essay from Pravda, of all places, regarding the unfairness of the NYT:


    “Much of the news coming out, in the effort to disguise ideological propaganda, contains the fundamental error of mistaking the wood with the trees … especially when the aim is to denigrate. That is, from an isolated case, preferably rough outlines, and generalized in order to induce the reader to think that the whole is of the same nature. This generalization obviously has ideological connotations and follows a political agenda that seeks to deconstruct traditional society and all its secular institutions and to impose a New World Order after the manner of the sinister interests of the international oligarchy, the same ones that handle the financial markets and through them, largely control the global economy. We refer to cases of pedophilia within the ranks of the Catholic Church recently publicized by international news agencies.

    Indeed recent reports of pedophilia involving priests have the outlines of information that journalistic ethics require, regardless of their moral gravity. Such stories raise suspicion about their “goodness” even among non-Catholics like us. Although disagreeing with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in some respects, but we recognize the importance of their role in our history to defend the ethical values that shape our Judeo-Christian culture and their social merit on behalf of those who have been victims of the usury and greed of the international oligarchy, which is after all more interested in destroying Catholicism and religion in general, as they constitute a serious obstacle to achieving its goal, which is to reduce mankind to the status of robotic slaves.”

  22. meisterlowin says:

    Great article! Thank you for sharing your find.

  23. robtbrown says:

    When did you last read a fair account of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) in the “quality” press? When did you ever read there an objective appraisal of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that Lefebvre founded to withstand the Modernist juggernaut that came out of he Council?

    If I might offer a mild defense of the press, I think to a great extent they were just reporting the company line from the Vatican and the hierarchy. During my years in Rome, I was amazed to hear priests from non European or American nations spouting disinformation about LeFebvre.

  24. Oleksander says:


    even with faith alone, he’s probably more orthodox than half of the bishops in europe

  25. Tom in NY says:

    Gospodin “Pravda” added post-modernism to the current episode of the Modernist struggle. It used the magic word “deconstruction,” describing the recent tool used against objective truth.
    In a late 1980s address in New York, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke against misuses of biblical criticism. He had seen the shadow of such a line of thinking at Tuebingen.
    Ad astra per aspera!

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    You may be right, Oleksander.

    Add to that 3/4 of the priests here.

  27. JayneK says:

    I too picked up on the sentence questioned by Mike in his comment above:

    “Ratzinger is far removed from the wavelength of the SSPX and of the former members of that body who have returned to full communion with Rome under the auspices of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).”

    I’m wondering if there is perhaps a typo in which a “not” has gone missing. It would fit the context better and also better match my understanding of events.

    At any rate, it was an outstanding article and a joy to read. Thanks for the link Fr. Z.

  28. The Vatican II booster crowd decries Pius X for his “witch hunt” against Modernists, but then basically demand that Benedict XVI do the same thing. Talk about an argument of convenience. (and by saying that I’m not advocating a soft approach to abusers!!!) As for anger at Ratzinger’s betrayal, I had to suffer through doctoral seminars with one of Kung’s students who always blamed Ratzinger for his “inability to deal with reality”–by which he meant “Ratzinger didn’t like everything about the Sixties.”

  29. Sandy says:

    Three cheers for Mr. Stephenson! I hope he learns of the admiration true Catholics will have for this awesome defense of our Holy Father. How ironic that this comes from someone who is not of our Faith.

  30. wanda says:

    Cheers to you Mr. Stephenson. Thank you seems too little to say for your bold defense of our beloved Pope Benedict XVI.

  31. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    I found Mr Stephenson’s comments on SSPX intriguing. As an Orthodox Christian I have always admired the SSPX for taking the stand they do against modernism in the Latin Rite. Obviously, Mr. Stephenson does too. I only wish the SSPX would tone down their rhetoric against the Orthodox. They often peg us as near apostates, and certainly question the validity of our mysteries. I’m not sure what they say concerning the Lutherans but it is no doubt less favorable than what they say about us. I hope their society better realizes she has allies outside her official ranks and the Latin Rite, and implements a better zeal according to this knowledge.

  32. wshurtli says:

    See? We protestants are looking out for our Catholic brothas. As a licensed preacher in the presbyterian church in america, I can too agree that the main stream media has been shameful here. Thank God for the alternative media.

  33. tim mccarthy says:

    I’m in a rush, but Pravda as in the old USSR has published two, not one articles in defense of HH Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church, which slams the NYT and their Slimy Overlords hidden in shadow. I’ve seen them at Fisheater Forum.

  34. TJerome says:

    I know I’m not supposed to feel this kind of joy on Good Friday – but this article is FANTASTIC. It should be required reading for Catholic bishops. They could take a cue from this, although Archbishop Dolan, Cardinal Levada, and some others have done an excellent job. Thanks for making my day Father Z!!!

  35. wanda says:

    We thank you, wshurti, our brother in Christ.

  36. Gail F says:

    What an excellent article, thanks so much for posting it. He is correct in his headline: “By the way, the world still hates, loathes, & detests Christ and His Church!” I used to think that was crazy talk. But it’s true.

  37. Maltese says:

    Great piece! I agree with most of what he says, but remember Lutherans do not confect a valid Eucharist.

    Martin Luther was a nun-marrying ex-monk drunkard who had “farting matches” with the “devil,” (can’t even imagine that one, but it is researched in the book Triumph,) and called Gospel of James a “book of straw.”

    Still, kudos to this gifted writer for pointing out some incongruities within our own faith.

  38. irishgirl says:

    Wow-what a piece! And from a Protestant, no less!

    Thanks for posting this, Fr. Z!

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